2014 New York Design Awards

2014 New York Design Awards logo

Happy to be on the jury for the 2014 New York Design Awards. Congratulations to all the winners at the award ceremony held at Steelcase last night. To get to the site and see the 2014 winners of the award, click here. This is the first year this program has been held in New York, and the response, judging from the number of entries, was great. Especially interesting was the wide range of entries. And the range of people and companies who entered – from start-ups to mega-corporations.


Unwound: Fishman’s “Fluence” guitar pickup – my article in Premier Guitar

Premier Guitar Fluence article pg1 200W

The team at Fishman Acoustic Amplification goes electric – developing Fluence, a pickup system that does away with traditional copper coil windings, instead “printing” windings for super-consistant results. Between that, their method for controlling the pull of the magnets, and equalizing the output signal, they have managed to consistently replicate the sounds coming from best pickups they could find. In addition, cable length and guitar volume have no affect on the tone – while eliminating hum! This is a radical departure from traditional guitar pickups, and the first true innovation in the 80 years since George Beauchamp developed the first electric guitar pickup for Rickenbacker. The article, my third for Premier Guitar magazine, is out in this month’s (Feb 2014) issue.

In addition to the print version the article can be seen online here: Unwound: Fishman Rethinks the Electric Guitar Pickup


A Brief History of Tremolo: Premier Guitar

premierguitar201311 tremolo cover 200W

What do Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Big Bill Broonzy, The Staple Singers, Nancy Sinatra, the 1939 World’s Fair and a 16th century organ in Italy have in common? They are all discussed in my second article for Premier Guitar magazine, A Brief History of Tremolo, appearing in the November 2013 issue. Tremolo, an oscillation in volume, is a “natural” effect for many instruments. Move a bow on a violin back and fourth while holding a note and you’ll hear it. But what about guitar? Not possible by any normal means – only when you electrify things. Who was first?

The online version (click above) also contains links to some YouTube videos.

Medical Packaging Innovation blog


Over the last few months I’ve been writing a series of blogs for Medical Packaging Innovation. My posts are here: MPI: Dan Formosa. The site is new, just started up earlier this year. Some lively discussions are going on. For my topics, the definition of “technology” elicited quite a bit of discussion (is it “technology” if no one can use it?) Or whether your product is male or female (the product itself, not the people using it – that thought seemed to cause confusion for a few people.)

If you get a chance check out all the posts on the site – some great people are blogging there. Comments are closed here on my site (been getting too much spam, need to fix that), but when you get to the MPI site, leave comments!

May 21 2104 Update: Medical Packaging Innovation has been rechristened, becoming Medical Packaging Community. My posts are scattered throughout the pages. To find them faster you can try searching Google with:
“dan formosa site:http://www.pmpnews.com/news”


How Tube Amps Work: Premier Guitar

Premier Guitar August 2013 cover xsm


Happy to have written, illustrated and photographed the cover story of this month’s (August 2013) issue of Premier Guitar magazine. The article gives a part-by-part description of tube amp technology using my favorite amp, a 1960’s Vox AC4. It traces the guitar signal through every component, from pickup to speaker. And it gets into a not-overly-technical description of electrons, current flow and the basic operation of vacuum tubes.

In addition to print, an online version is here:

How Tube Amps Work

Also, if following along here is the original Vox AC4 schematic mentioned in the article.

Special thanks to Mitch Colby (colbyamps.com) and Tim Schroeder (schroederaudioinc.com) for their technical assistance with the article.

Include 2013, Hong Kong

Include Asia 2013 logo sm


I was in Hong Kong earlier this month giving a talk and workshop at the Include Asia 2013 conference. Usually held in London, the conference focuses on design for all – it was a first for Hong Kong. My keynote talk covered a range of topics, but with the underlying idea that “questioning everything” is a pretty good first step in innovation.

The workshop was titled Body & Mind. I ran it with Steve Wilcox, head of Design Science in Philadelphia. Steve’s Ph.D. is in cognitive psychology, mine is in biomechanics. There is, unfortunately, not enough of either being taught in design schools. For the 40 participants in the workshop this was apparently an introductory exposure to either topic. Of course, if you are going to design for all, basic (or extended) knowledge in these areas will help immensely.

Thanks to everyone who attended the conference and the workshop. In addition to the conference presentations, it was great seeing (and having a chance to hang out with) the RCA crowd again.

Arthritis, hearing and vision trouble in the US

The Center for Disease Control in the US periodically publishes updates on health statistics. Here is a chart showing age distribution of three common problems – arthritis, hearing trouble and vision trouble (even after corrective eyewear).

The CDC reports this data in age brackets. For this chart, I interpolated that data – because a line chart makes the age distribution easier to understand. I also placed a dividing line at age 55, to split the adult population into two groups. (Choosing 55 was an arbitrary decision, I did it just to make the information easier to discuss.)



Pythagoras in Nashville – TEDxDrexelU videos are on YouTube




Videos for the TEDxDrexelU conference have been posted on YouTube (my talk included.)

TEDxDrexelU videos on YouTube

I need to thank several people who assisted in my presentation. The super-nice slide guitar photos were used by permission of Randall Douglas. Randall is based in Minnesota – check his website for more nice photos – musicians, and others.

Randall Douglas’s photography website

Thanks also to Nashville legend Charlie McCoy for permission to use his photo. Charlie’s website is here:

Charlie McCoy’s website

Chas Williams was also a big help – I referenced his book, The Nashville Number System, quite a bit in my talk. And with Chas’ permission, used several images from the book. Definitely look into his book if you’re a fan of music and information.

Chas Williams / The Nashville Number System

Lots of great presentations that day. Thanks to everyone involved.


Design and Emotion Conference Workshop, London – September 11–14




Agnete Enga and I will be running a workshop at the Design & Emotion conference in London. This year’s theme – Out of Control. The conference runs from September 11–14.

The topic of our workshop: Relationship Counseling. Specifically, the workshop will delve into the topic of design and females, and how a brand relationship differs little from a personal relationship. We’ll be discussing what females are searching for. (Males too, although females are more interesting, more demanding, spend a lot more money – and their desires are less fulfilled.) Conference information and workshop sign up are here:

Design & Emotion Conference: Out of Control

If you’re in London, or want to visit, D&E is a great conference. More on this later.

Vintage Guitar interview

Vintage Guitar, September 2012







Happy to be interviewed alongside ZZ Top’ s Billy Gibbons in an article by Michael Dregni in the September issue of Vintage Guitar magazine. The article discusses the early use of guitar effects – specifically, tremolo circuits and devices, which date back to the 1940s. I received the designation “historian” (apparently, for being able to supply more than enough information about the topic.)

Hey Moe, look! “One Fix for Healthcare” article at Fast Company









An article I wrote for Fast Company, “One Fix For Health Care,” is now online (click here) – discussing pharmacies, design, drug compliance, and dope slaps.

Thanks Belinda Lanks at Fast Company, and for help with the content, thanks Mark Jones and Tim Brown at IDEO, and Jeff Hirsch, Leah Waitekus and Josh Tsai for sharing their design research project at Syracuse University with me.

EMDT article: The Future of Home Healthcare







EMDT (European Medical Device Technology) published an article I wrote titled “The Future of Home Healthcare: Searching for Extreme Usability.”  In it I discuss, among other things, how important it is to understand and design for individuals, not homogenized groups.

The Tangible: Dead or Alive – June 19 2012








Next week IDSANY will be holding the second annual discussion on The Tangible: Dead or Alive. The event will be held at Farenheit 212 in NYC, Tuesday June 19 at 7:00 pm. I’ll be on the panel with Karim Rashid, Tom Igoe and LinYee Yuan.

Here’s the announcement on the Core77 site.

Computex Taipei 2012


The winners of the iF Awards for Design and Innovation at Computex Taipei 2012 were announced last week.

Photos and descriptions of the winning products are on the artdesigncafé site. Congratulations to the winning entries, and thanks to the iF Branch Office Taiwan for inviting me to be on the jury.

Here’s a video of interviews with the panel.














Here’s a link to Yang Yuhsiu’s documentary, Design&Thinking. Its third screening anywhere took place last Thursday at SVA in Manhattan. A discussion with Allan Chochinov, Bruce Nussbaum, Cameron Tonkinwise, Alice Twemlow and me, hosted by Paul Pangaro, followed.










TEDxDrexelU, May 16 2012

Great work by all at Drexel who put together the TEDxDrexelU conference last week. I was first up, opening the day with a discussion of math and music. A whole lineup of people followed – including Carla Diana, Bill Moggridge, and Te Way We See The World. Dhairya Pujara did a great job hosting. Links to the videos coming soon.